Category Archives: Design

Eye For Style’s Escape to Brooklyn

As soon as it appeared in my inbox, I knew this adventure would be right up my alley. The folks at Urban Oyster Tours had kindly invited me for lunch and a 3-hour tour of Brooklyn, to explore where its culinary and agricultural worlds collide. Frankly, they had me at hello with talk of ‘experiencing the entire farm-to-table journey of my food’ and seduced with promises of taking me straight to the heart of Brooklyn’s most unique food destinations, to sample and speak with the creative entrepreneurs behind them. Twist my arm? Not likely.

To my surprise, not only was the tour destined to be chock full of local artisanal eats, but we had multiple guides for the day – Bob Lewis (local historian, founder of NYC Greenmarkets, and Special Assistant at NY State Agriculture & Markets), David Naczycz and Cindy VandenBosch (founders of Urban Oyster), and Caylin Sanders (founder of local travel web portal, EscapeMaker.com). Each were a veritable wealth of information about Brooklyn’s myriad riches – its food and architecture; neighborhoods, people, and cultural traditions; agriculture and urban planning initiatives – past and present.

We met up at Skylight One Hanson, one jaw-dropping landmark of art deco magnificence, perhaps better known as the former Williamsburg Savings Bank, and current winter home of the Brooklyn Flea, which now serves as a prime events location for hire year round. As we jitneyed to our first destination via “The Good Bus”, we got the scoop on what Urban Oyster is all about:

“The name comes from the legend that New York Harbor once contained half the world’s oysters. Over time though, most of the beds died off due to pollution and over-consumption”, David explained. “Like oysters, the neighborhoods of New York are treasured resources that require nurturing in order to survive and flourish. We seek to reveal the hidden pearls of this great city – the neighborhoods, people, and businesses that are uniquely New York. We aim to connect people to these special places through their stories and history, in an effort to support and value local production, consumption, cultural diversity, historic preservation, and sustainability for the benefit of generations to come.”

Given my unbridled obsession with NYC local food & drink culture, coupled with my family’s business of historic preservation, such excursions are tailor-made for culinary architecture geeks like me. I ventured repeatedly to Smorgasburg and New Amsterdam Market last summer, both weekend outdoor markets where you can snap up local artisanal goods, fresh produce & ingredients, and literally sample everything under the sun, as you chat directly with the people who make the things you’re eating, in picturesque locales along either side of the East River.

And Urban Oyster Tours are another opportunity to do the exact same thing. They take you straight to the cooks’ kitchen and give you a comprehensive history lesson ‘mise en place’. They offer a variety of expertly crafted outings – “Eat Like a Local” through Boerum Hill; “Mom & Pop Shops” in Cobble Hill; “Food Carts” of Lower Manhattan; “Immigrant Foodways” in Williamsburg; and their most popular “Brewed in Brooklyn” and “Craft Beer Crawl” which combine a lesson in local beer making techniques with the best part – tasting! Sip your IPA, on the site it was made, while you chat up the brewer? That’s refreshingly rare.

You can get on board with regularly scheduled tours or arrange a private tour of your own. Either or, it’s an entertaining way to show your out-of-town guests how the natives do it, and for locals, it’s a delicious opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and learn more about the vast expanse of your own backyard. It’s so easy to become a creature of habit in your own city and re-visit the same old haunts time after time, but these tours can provide a fresh perspective to the same old stomping grounds, pointing out places you might otherwise miss.

If you’ve lived in the NYC during the last 5 years and have even a mild interest in food culture, chances are you’ve participated in the endless debate as to which borough is the true epicenter of culinary arts – Manhattan or Brooklyn? Manhattan certainly makes a compelling case for itself, as farm-to-table restaurants from celebrity chefs like Dan Barber, Dan Kluger, David Bouley, and Mike Price steadily increase in popularity and rooftop farm initiatives gain steam. Brooklyn is a venerable mecca for foodies in its own right though, and many would simply argue it’s the borough that represents the best of NYC food culture, period.

It’s certainly where the small batch, artisanal, locally made, grown, and sourced movement has sunk its deepest roots at present. While Manhattan is the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, Brooklyn is at the epicenter of another social revolution – locavorism – and is pro-actively re-positioning itself as THE food and agro-tourism destination you must visit. Great strides are being made in just about every neighborhood enclave to return to their roots of food cultivation and production. There’s been a virtual explosion of urban gardening and community revitalization projects, such as The Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and Added Value, all of whom are committed to getting people re-invested in their communities and the joys of volunteerism. We’re witnessing a revival of the love affair between foodies and farmers, and the people who make speciality foods are being recognized for their important contributions to the social fabric of the city’s culture again. We’re finding ways to revamp cultural traditions of the past, with a fresh twist that suits our modern lifestyles.

The first stop on our BK Foodways tour was Moore Street Market, one of the few remaining public markets designed during the LaGuardia era as a sanitary alternative to the pushcart vending culture prevalent during the early turn of the century. Our guides provided us with a comprehensive history of the market, complete with historic photographs and fascinating anecdotes, painting a picture of then and now, as well as briefing us on the upcoming urban planning improvements, including a landscaped outdoor public plaza on Humboldt Street, scheduled for completion in Summer 2013. We walked around the market’s interior, meeting several of the long time vendors who treated us to homemade horchata, corn pupusas, and a special tea remedy, made from ingredients native to her family’s homeland in Pueblo, Mexico.

Then, it was off to Roberta’s Pizza for lunch. Housed in an unassuming cinder block structure, with zero curb appeal in an industrial section of East Williamburg, we entered to discover an enormous wood-burning oven as the centerpiece of their open kitchen, which we later learned literally took the slow boat from Italy to Brooklyn. The place is super rustic, with long picnic tables and benches; a small wood bar with a bevy of local beers and a clever cocktail menu scrawled on the chalkboard overhead; and an enclosed outdoor patio heated by a wood-burning furnace, that stares directly into the Heritage Radio Network station which broadcasts 24/7. The crowd is very, well, Brooklyn – local locals, each with their own signature mustache or coiffed beard, complimenting their casual vintage wear and quirky-rimmed glasses. I watched the process as they hand fired our pizzas to bubbly perfection, then topped with veg grown in their roof top garden (or at the nearby BK Grange) and meats sourced at the local butcher shop. We sat down to the communal table, first devouring the fresh margherita, then several more mouthwatering kale and homemade Berkshire sausage pies. A heaven you’d never know existed…

Then, we traveled to over to Brooklyn Winery, a beautiful space in the heart of Williamsburg, utilizing re-purposed wood, recycled furniture, found objects and memorabilia to create one warm, inviting place to imbibe away the hours and socialize with other connoisseurs. We were privileged to receive a glimpse behind the scenes, touring the space where they age their varietals in barrels stacked ceiling high. Their one-and-only winemaker, Conor McCormack, happened to be on site bottling and corking a few cases of a new Cab Sav, so we got to watch and then taste it, as we chatted with him in the intimate event space upstairs. The duo owners, Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who left unfulfilling, but lucrative positions in finance to follow their passion for wine and create a space that they themselves would want to hang out in with their friends, also mingled with us. We asked all kinds of questions, and they answered every single one, from where they got the furniture, to the grapes; how they design their labels and acquired such a desirable location; to the types of events they have on offer and their vision for the future. Ridiculously centrally located near Bedford Avenue on N 8th Street, with a spectacularly unique wine menu and lots of comfortably designed nooks to chill in, this is the place you want to spend a mellow Friday night, come for a workshop or a tasting, or host an intimate shindig of your own.

Finally, it was over to Brooklyn Farmacy in Carroll Gardens, a lovingly restored, 1920’s era soda fountain. Brought back to life by brother and sister team, Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo, for a Discovery Channel reality TV renovation series, it’s a quintessential old gem that makes you think you’ve stepped back in time. Children came in with their parents to have a scoop of ice cream at the counter after school, grandparents read books to grandkids off the shelves of their library, and a group played board games on the big table in the back room. We were treated to traditional chocolate and vanilla egg creams, as the owners shared priceless stories about the history of the space, the condition they found it in, and how they went to great lengths to make it their own while attempting to remain true to the neighborhood. This joint manages to strike the perfect balance between family-friendly cute and edgy Brooklyn “Jerk”. You can buy more than 2 dozen locally made products from different BK artisans, proudly displayed in the Farmacy’s original wooden built ins. Lucky for you out-of-towners, these delicacies can be purchased online at With Love, From Brooklyn and NY Mouth.

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As the tour came to a close, I had a very heartwarming feeling that history has not been lost, but in fact, there are many people committed to preserving the stories and places that make these diverse neighborhoods truly one-of-a-kind. The culinary traditions of the past are alive and well for the current generations to appreciate, if you put yourself in capable hands and know where to look. As the afternoon sun began to dip behind the trees, I sat outside on the Farmacy’s bench chatting with a few old men from the ‘hood about how life used to be and how things haved changed. I commiserated, with an understanding nod and an appreciation for their perspective, but also with joy in my heart that pearls like these still exist for me and hopefully, my children to experience. It may not be like it used to, but perhaps there’s still hope, that eventually we can make city living even better for the future.

**

Want to learn more about Urban Oyster Tours straight from the founders?
Sample goodies from these very same artisans yourself?
Get ideas for local culinary tours and travel destinations?

Head to: Escapemaker.com’s Local Food & Travel Expo
Saturday, April 14 from 12 – 5 pm
@ Skylight One Hanson

And be sure to check out all these places and more on my “Best of Culinary Brooklyn” Eye For Style map!

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Shop, Eat, Drink in Spring!

Spring has officially sprung and the weather is already unseasonably warm, so locals and tourists alike are itching to soak up all the outdoor activities on tap throughout the city. There are several festivals kicking off the season this very weekend and dozens more opening just a few short weeks from now. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a handy dandy list for the best places to crawl, eat, nosh, and repeat ad infinitum, that are guaranteed to put a spring in your step…

Shop, Drop, & Drink

Saturday April 7, 2012

Williamburg, Brooklyn

Nearly 50 businesses will offer special sales and discounts to celebrate the arrival of spring with an all-day mobile shopping event. Contemporary stores like Bird, Life:Curated, Jumelle, In God We Trust, and beloved vintage boutiques like Horizon’s Vintage, Malin Landaeus, and Antoinette will ALL offer single-day sales and special offerings all the live long day.

Event-goers can unlock immediate discounts – like a free tote from Catbird or a mini-sundae from Momofuku Milk Bar - by simply by using the free Domino Smart Guide app, taking a picture of the item they’re interested in, and posting it to their Facebook wall. The app’s map is the perfect way to hone in on exactly where all the participants are located and what kind of perks they’re offering for the event.

Mobile art truck sensation Art Attack will also be roaming through Williamsburg selling inexpensive pieces by local artists. Crawlers can track the truck by following @RabbitArtAttack on Twitter.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘Burg, or just want to broaden your horizons and plug in to what’s new in the ‘hood, this is a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday, checking out and supporting the wide array of small businesses throughout in the area in one fell swoop.

 

Smorgasburg

Opening Day: April 7, 2012

Every Saturday, 11am – 6pm, thru 
November 2012

East River Waterfront, b/w North 6 + 7 Sts, Williamburg, Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s favorite all-food market, returns for the 2012 season, promising a veritable food bonanza with a healthy mix of delicious Flea veterans and talented newcomers. Go grab that nosh you’ve been dreaming about since November and discover some new favorites before the other cool kids do.

If you want a refresher course on what to expect, check out Eye For Style’s “best of the fest” recommendations here.

Dekalb Market

Spring Weekender Opening

April 7 + 8, 2012 from 10 am  – 6 pm

138 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dekalb Market is launching as a multi-purpose cultural destination featuring a new outdoor event space with a full season of free, curated music, art, food, film and eclectic experiences in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.

Housed in a collection of salvaged shipping containers, the market aims to unite Brooklyn’s creative entrepreneurs in a community setting that include an incubator farm, events and performance venue, and a collection of eateries and work-sell spaces.

Dekalb Market 2012 will include: Dance parties, free open-air markets, unique foodie events, bike in and rooftop movie nights, lobster boils, interior design shows, roller derbies and an ongoing series of special live music performances. All of this alongside the new permanent Dekalb Market Beer & Wine Garden, featuring local craft beer, wine and sangria, the ideal spot to hang out with friends, relax in the sun and take a break from shopping, set against the gritty-cool urban backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

Open seven days a week, locals and visitors can now spend a leisurely morning, afternoon or evening while enjoying over 60+ local food vendors and on site retail shops.

THE SPRING WEEKENDER opening days extravaganza will be host to myriad activities including: a curated flower and garden market; cooking, farming, gardening, and crafting classes & workshops for adults and children; a market wide Easter egg hunt; DJ sets and live music from local bands; locally brewed beer & wine garden; and more!
 

COMING SOON:

 
Hester Street Fair

Hester @ Essex Street, Lower East Side

Opening Day: Saturday, April 28

Every Saturday, 12 – 6 pm thru October 2012

 

New Amsterdam Market

South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip


Opening Day: Sunday, April 29

Every Sunday, 11am – 4pm thru December 2012

 
 
 
 
 
Frieze Art Fair New York

Randall’s Island

May 4 – 7, 2012

12 – 7 pm

Frieze New York presents the most forward-thinking galleries from around the globe, bringing an international focus to the dynamic contemporary art scene in New York.

Frieze Projects will showcase work by over 1,000 of the world’s leading artists, and Frieze Talks will host a program of debates, panel discussions, and keynote lectures, housed in a bespoke temporary structure designed by New York-based SO-IL architects and located in the unique setting of Randall’s Island Park, overlooking the East River.

Frieze New York 2012 will also offer a choice of eating and drinking options, from Frankie’s Spuntino, Sant Ambroeus, The Fat Radish, Roberta’s, The Standard Biergarten, and Intelligentsia Coffee.

 
 

Madison Square Eats Spring 2012

Daily, May 4 – June 1

Worth Square, just west of MSP @ 24th & 5th Ave.

For Eye For Style’s recommendations on how to spend a leisurely day relishing the bounty of MSE3, Eataly, AND Madison Square Park, click here immediately.

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WARNING: Art Overload Ahead

This year, The Whitney Museum of American Art 2012 Whitney Biennial, The Armory Show, the Museum of Modern Art’s Cindy Sherman Retrospective, the New Museum’s signature triennial The Ungovernables, and John Chamberlain: Choices at the Guggenheim Museum will ALL be on view in early March.

Therefore, use these handy links to formulate a game plan and don’t get overwhelmed. There’s tons to see and do, and many elbows to rub, so dress to impress, wear those cute but comfortable shoes, and get ready to schmooze the New York City art world in style. And don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to spread all your art oogling out, with most of these shows running until the cusp of summer. And by the looks of it, we’ve got some dynamite weather on tap to make all your hob-nobbing, art-crawling, simply delightful. Happy Spring, art lovers!

Whitney Biennial 2012

945 Madison Avenue @ 75th Street

Sculpture, painting, installations, and photography—as well as dance, theater, music, and film—fill the galleries of the Whitney Museum of American Art in the latest edition of the Whitney Biennial. With a roster of artists at all points in their careers the Biennial provides a look at the current state of contemporary art in America. This is the seventy-sixth in the ongoing series of Biennials and Annuals presented by the Whitney since 1932, two years after the Museum was founded.

The 2012 Biennial takes over most of the Whitney from March 1 – May 27, with portions of the exhibition and some programs continuing through June 10. For the exhibition, the Whitney’s fourth-floor Emily Fisher Landau Galleries are being used as a dynamic, 6,000-square-foot performance space for music, dance, theater, and other events. This is the first Biennial in which nearly a full floor of the Museum has been given over to a changing season of performances, events, and residencies. Accordingly, the 2012 Biennial is in constant flux, with artists, works, and experiences varying over the course of the exhibition.

So stroll through the exhibitions, catch a film screening, grab a bite or a coffee @ Chef Danny Meyer’s new restaurant Untitled, and pay what you wish on Fridays from 6 – 9 pm! For the full calendar of events, click here.

The Armory Show continues its trailblazing presence in the art world with its 2012 edition: The Armory Show—Contemporary. Pier 92 is host to The Armory Show—Modern, a selection of internationally renowned galleries presenting masterworks of the 20th century, while Pier 94 premieres new works by living artists (where West 55th Street meets 12th Avenue).

This year’s 2012 edition will feature: an international roster of exciting, leading galleries; a lively opening night party and fundraiser at MoMA; a new media lounge with a curated performance series and film screenings of artists’ experimental films and videos curated by Moving Image; an Open Forum of eclectic conversations and panels featuring top figures in the art world; and the work of the 2012 Commissioned Artist Theaster Gates.

The Armory Show has engaged award-winning, New York-based architectural firm Bade Stageberg Cox to re-design the space, creating a more comfortable, luxurious experience, including a new “farm-to-table” restaurant and cafe by Great Performances catering who utilize seasonal, local and artisanal ingredients from their own organic Katchkie Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The Armory Show VIP Program will be offering an unrivaled VIP calendar featuring an exciting series of exclusive events in New York City that have become requisite in the international art circuit. Each year, over twenty prominent art collectors open their homes for private viewings. VIP programming also includes special tours with collecting institutions and special receptions with embassies and international cultural consuls.

VOLTA NY 2012

@ 7W

7 West 34th St, b/w 5th & 6th Ave., 11th floor

March 8th -11th, 2012

An invitational solo project fair for contemporary art with mutually acknowledged VIP access and shared shuttles with The Armory Show.
 
 
And don’t you dare miss:



Cindy Sherman

@ MoMA Museum of Modern Art

11 West 53rd Street, b/w 5th & 6th Avenue

February 26–June 11, 2012

Tisch Exhibition Gallery, 6th floor

View the interactive exhibition site here.
 
 
 

The Ungovernables: 2012 New Musuem Triennial

@ The New Museum

235 Bowery @ Prince Street

February 15 – April 24, 2012


 
 
John Chamberlain: Choices

@ The Guggenheim Museum

1071 5th Avenue @ 89th Street

February 24–May 13, 2012

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Best of Local Holiday Shopping in NYC & Brooklyn

More than ever, I think it’s really important to support local artists, craftsman, and designers during the holiday season. Visiting independent holiday markets and pop-up shops is not only fun, it’s a sure fire way to find gifts that are are completely unique, and so much more personally tailored to your loved one’s tastes and interests. No big box retailer in the mall, selling mass-produced crap from China, can compete with that!

Some of the very best local holiday markets are happening this weekend, so I’ve compiled a handy-dandy list of my favorite events to make your shopping a little less stressful, and a little more festive. Fingers crossed, you’ll get all those purchases out of the way in one fell swoop, so you can move on to the most enjoyable activities – cooking and spending time with the people you adore!

 

The Brooklyn Flea

Skylight One Hanson @ Ashland Pl., Ft. Greene

12/16, 2 – 9; 12/17 + 18, 10 – 5; 12/21 + 22, 2 – 9

If you can’t tick everything off your list at this one location, you’re officially a glutton for Christmas shopping punishment. If you like feeding all your birds with one seed, and getting the madness over with in one easy rip, head to The Flea immediately. This event is really the best of both worlds, merging the food purveyors from Saturday’s Smorgasburg, with the clothing, craft, and vintage treasure vendors of Sunday’s BK Flea. Thankfully, they are all co-mingling under one spectacular roof for the winter, at the architectural gem that is Skylight One Hanson, formerly the Williamsburg Savings Bank. It’s worth a visit just to see the gorgeous landmark’s interior, but with 100+ vendors lining the former teller windows on the ground floor, secret rooms on the upstairs mezzanine, and the original bank vault on the lower level brimming with an impressive food court and seating area, this is as good as local holiday shopping experiences are likely to get.

Best plan of attack? Start your shopping day here with a little coffee, breakfast noshing, and browsing. Do a full lap around to check out all that’s on offer, before heading back to your favorite vendors for those all too perfect gifts for you-know-exactly-who. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way over for the evening festivities at:

 

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar

149 Kent Ave, between N 5th & N 6th, Williamsburg

12/15 – 12/17, 5 pm – 1 am

This triple threat, grub-shop-party event pops up in a huge warehouse space this weekend only. The 3-day event, designed specially by JDS Architects, is guaranteed to be one happening spot, bursting at the seams with shopping, food, music, film, and art installations. Many of the food vendors are familiar faces from Smorgasburg, but seeing as Brooklyn has no shortage of culinary talent, dozens of other esteemed BK food scene luminaries will also be on hand to sweeten the pot, along side several local wineries and breweries. 60+ artist merchants will be peddling their crafty wares, as a handful of musical acts take to the stage, including DJ James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem) and The Hold Steady. Admission to TBNB is free, food is modestly priced, while tickets for the live performances can be purchased separately for $10 – $22. For a complete line-up of participating talent, and to purchase tickets, visit: http://bkbazaar.com

 

While you’re shop-crawling around Williamsburg, drop by Artists & Fleas Designer and Vintage Market (70 N 7th Street, every Sat & Sun, 10 am – 7 pm) to visit some of my very favorite artist merchants in the NYC area, housed all in one convenient indoor location, year-round since 2003. Affordable and cool gifts abound here: jewelry galore, chunky knit accessories, funky vintage & modern threads, one-of-a-kind handmade journals, decorative art, and much more.

If making the trip out to Brooklyn just isn’t your thing, you’re in luck because they’re bringing 30+ of their most stylish vendors to the heart of Manhattan for:

The Artists & Fleas Holiday Pop-Up Shop @ Chelsea Market

10th Avenue @ 15th Street

12/15 – 12/31, 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

Located in a never before seen, 4000 sq. ft. industrial space in Chelsea Market, this pop-up is a perfect destination for all your holiday shopping needs. You’ll undoubtedly find a cornucopia of handmade goodies by A&F’s cream of the crop. The full-time tenants of Chelsea Market, formerly the Nabisco Biscuit Co. Headquarters, have tons on offer as well – Morroccan home decor, kitchenware, gourmet food products, books, and more. Take a load off and stop for: a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso; a creamy cold treat from Arte Del Gelato or Ronnybrook Farms; a wicked hot chocolate a la Jacques Torres; baked goods from Amy’s Bread or Eleni’s. Choose from: Thai or Italian; California cuisine or NY farm-to-table; sushi from the seafood market or charcuterie from Dickson’s Farmstand; or a soup/salad combo from Hale & Hearty. The options are endless. The building is conveniently nestled directly beneath The High Line, along the picturesque Hudson River waterfront, and at the crossroads of the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and West Village shopping districts, making it a must stroll destination area.

So, after you’ve enjoyed the Artists & Fleas pop-up, had a bite in Chelsea Market, taken a jaunt along The High Line and through the fashionable MPD, make your way east a few blocks to round out your shopping adventures with a visit to:

 

The Union Square Holiday Market

14th Street between Broadway and University Place

11/24 – 12/24; M-F: 11-8; Sat: 10-9; Sun: 10-6

This has been my go-to holiday shopping destination for the last several years running, despite the fact that it can be a claustrophobic zoo, packed with wide-eyed tourists all day long. Nevertheless, I do enjoy meandering through the maze of red & white, candy cane striped tents, browsing and sampling, and intermittenly stopping for a hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up. I confess that this year, the market feels as if it’s lost a bit of its magic. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to it several times before, and there aren’t as many new vendors participating. Cool pop-ups have been increasingly the rage throughout 2011, so organizers really have to up-the-ante to keep things interesting, especially for resident shoppers. A lot of this year’s fine artists in particular look rather identical to each other, though I do dig the NYC cityscape themed art that seems to adorn every canvas, leather clutch, tote bag, t-shirt, greeting card, or surface that one can manage to print a digital image on.

I do have a few absolute favorite vendors that I consider to be real stand outs, who lure me back again and again to buy items that have become a part of my personal holiday traditions.

My favorite gift vendors are: COPA Soaps’ intoxicating essential oil infused, heaven-scented bars of skin softening, shea-buttery magic that smell good enough to eat; Nirvanna Designs’ warm and stylish line of crochet/knit hats, gloves, and outerwear, made with high quality wools and lined with super soft fleece; DeLong Ceramics’ decorative tiles and hanging ornaments featuring the iconic landmarks of NYC/BK; Edie Art’s whimsical, colorful paintings depicting the magic of child’s play against the backdrop of NY cityscapes; Shaya’s stunning line of simple, geometric, handmade jewelry that artfully mixes elements of sterling silver, gold, and copper.

My favorite food vendors are: Brooklyn Salsa Co.’s line-up of palate-pleasing, kick ass salsas, consciously prepared utilizing a rather unique combination of sophisicated flavor profiles, with local sustainable ingredients, each cleverly named to represent 1 of the 5 boroughs; Spices and Tease’s beautiful rainbow of exotic, ethnic spices and nose tantalizing herb/flower/tea blends; No Chewing Allowed’s exquisite, melt on your tongue, premium French truffles and steamy hot chocolate.

If you’re still craving more shopping after all that, I should probably take your credit card away from you (or ask you to be my sugar daddy). That said, should you be interested in visiting other local holiday markets, in more neighborhoods throughout the city, I suggest you check out Destination Guides’ equally comprehensive list.

May you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and have a blast doing so. Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season and a grand New Year of the Dragon 2012!

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Where Madison Square Eats meets Eataly

At: 5th Avenue & 23rd Street, New York City

When: September 23 – October 21, 11am – 9pm

Madison Square Eats returns to Worth Square once again this fall, on the heels of a very successful summer 2011 trial run. Bringing together diverse tastes of some of the city’s best restaurants and bakeries, this gastronomic hub is a must visit for foodies and eaters alike, with plenty of outdoor seating nestled between Madison Square Park, the crossroads of bustling Broadway and 5th Avenue, at the foot of the famously picturesque Flatiron Building.

Participating eateries for fall include: Almond, Asiadog, Bar Suzette, The Cannibal, Fatty Snack, Graffiti/Mehtaphor, Hong Kong Street Cart, Hot Blondies Bakery, ilili, Junoon, Macaron Parlour, The Milk Truck, Momofuku Milk Bar, Nunu Chocolates, Perfect Picnic, Red Hook Lobster Pound, Roberta’s Pizza, Robicelli’s, Sigmund’s, Spices & Tease, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis, and Wafels & Dinges.

You can easily make an afternoon siesta of it, sampling the goodies of multiple vendors without feeling as though you’re going to burst at the seams, if you follow Eye For Style’s tried-and-true plan of attack: Begin with a couple of lunch courses at MSE2. Head directly across the street for a leisurely stroll around the park. Wonder why so many people are waiting in that long line at Shake Shack. Find a good bench to cop a squat, people watch and read the paper. Have a nice long conversation, with a stranger or your chosen companion. When you’re ready to move on, take a field trip over to Eataly! This barely year old, 50,000 sq. ft. space is part gourmet megamarket, part upscale restaurant food court/wine bar, part bookstore and specialty kitchenware emporium, part culinary school. It’s the well-conceived baby from a menage a trois of New York super-chefs, Mario Bataly, Joe and Lidia Bastianich. Their European partner, Oscar Farinetti, founded the original Eataly, located in Turin, Italy.

Hit the main floor, wandering around in awe and delight, to your hearts content. If the weather is lovely, head up to the Birreria and partake in a speciality craft beer, brewed right on Eataly’s very own rooftop, as you admire one spectacular view of Gramercy and Chelsea. Your thirst now sufficiently quenched, head back downstairs and fill your basket with all the delectibles you can’t bear to leave without – exotic fruits and veg from the produce market; tasty antipasto, charcuterie, crudo, and cheese from La Piazza for a light supper; and don’t forget a few goodies from Pasticceria for tomorrow’s breakfast! If you’re experiencing a bit of a food coma by now, pop by Caffé Lavazza or Vergnano, Eataly’s TWO espresso bars, to put a little pep in your step with a freshly ground cappuccino, before heading back outside to Worth Square for round #2 of MS Eats.

Now that your appetite for Italian cuisine has officially been whet, you’re gonna want to check out Eataly’s website for their extensive calendar of upcoming cooking classes with legendary NYC celebri-chefs. There’s so much going on at this food lover’s paradise, you can return again and again, without even beginning to stratch the surface of all the culinary offerings on hand.

Now that’s amore!

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GVSHP Village House Tour Benefit – May 1, 2011

This Sunday is Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s 13th Annual House Tour Benefit and it will offer exceptional access into seven of the Village’s finest and most exclusive homes.

This year’s tour highlights include a stately Italianate home with an elaborately-paneled entrance and intricate, original moldings; an artist’s townhouse and studio with an unexpected layout and surprising hidden features, including a backyard treehouse; a 350-square foot apartment with anything but a small sense of style accessed by a splendid shared courtyard; an art collector’s two-floor retreat featuring a life-sized mosaic tile tree; an extra-wide townhouse with Victorian-era details, once the home of Emily Post; and a traditional townhouse featuring a restored stoop and façade and an interior rich with period detail, some salvaged from other Village residences.

Advance tickets may be purchased online before April 30 and will be available for pick up on May 1st after 12:30 pm at Greenwich House Music School. The tour is completely self-guided, rain or shine, from 1 – 5:30 pm, and a cocktail reception will follow the tour at a private townhouse in the neighborhood atop a stunning roof deck.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in The Village and support a very worthy cause while you’re at it. GVSHP is at the forefront of the fight to protect still un-designated portions of Greenwich Village and a leader against NYU’s massive 2031 expansion plan. While NYU seems determined to take over the Village for their megolithic purposes, GVSHP is thankfully one of the only organizations to continuously hold NYU accountable for the promises they’ve made to the neighborhood, and serve as community watchdog to make sure the university responsibly rehabs its existing properties. They are invested in the push to move NYU’s future expansion plans to the Financial District, so that the spirit and integrity of Greenwich Village may be preserved for future generations. Be sure to take a look at their website to see the all myraid community causes they’re involved in, and if these issues speak to you as well, please buy a tour ticket in support or make a donation. Every little bit helps!

 

The weather promises to be lovely (fingers crossed), so if you’re interested in making a whole weekend of it, consider also attending the OHNY and Fourth Arts Block (FAB) Tour of East 4th Street on 
Saturday, April 30 at 1pm.

FAB is rooted in the Lower East Side’s long history of hosting community and cultural spaces that served marginalized immigrants, artists, and activists. In the 1960s and ‘70s, East 4th Street coalesced as a center for experimental theater and film. Four decades later, the block’s cultural groups founded FAB to preserve and develop these historic arts spaces.

The tour grants you access to many of the East 4th Street theaters, promoting an opportunity for discussion and awareness of how FAB weaves the arts with neighboring small businesses to strengthen a distinctive East Village cultural and community identity. To buy tickets, click here.

 

*Sidenote: The fact that I’m mentioning any of this at all, makes it official. I’m turning into my mother.

I jest, but seriously, I’m such a preservation/architecture/design nerd in my own right that GVSHP made me a docent captain for their House Tour Benefit this year. I’ve volunteered as a docent for the last 3 years running and it’s definitely one of the events I most look forward to every spring. I’m a freelance artist, and tickets aren’t cheap, so volunteering my time is an ideal way to participate. I love meandering through the Village with a map, exploring those yet undiscovered nooks and crannies of my neighborhood, and gaining unprecendented access to the crème de la crème of NYC residences. It is a rare treat to actually enter these homes that I walk by every day, and oogle the impeccable design, art collections, and impressive restorations. The tour always inspires to me to dream big about what I’ll create in my own future West Village rowhouse and secret garden (after I make my first couple of millions!) I also meet the nicest people every year and really look forward to the fascinating conversations I have with other die-hard Village lovers who are always chock full of interesting lore about these buildings and the illustrious residents who’ve inhabited them in the past.

You must understand that I find this passion of mine more than a little ironic because as a child, I was constantly dragged, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to many a home and urban walking tour by my mother, Christy Johnson McAvoy, an esteemed historic preservation and architectural consultant in Los Angeles. She’s one of the founding members of Hollywood Heritage, multi-term President of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the California Preservation Foundation, among other notable credits.

I was affectionately known in these circles as “the preservation kid” growing up, undoubtedly attending more tours and conferences than many of the adult members of these organizations. I developed a well-earned reputation for being that incredibly well-behaved child who sat quietly in the corner entertaining myself with coloring books during Hollywood Heritage board meetings at Wattles Mansion. And I was probably one of the only people under the age of 30 to witness Cecil B. DeMille’s Barn crawl slowly through the streets of Hollywood on a flatbed truck in the wee hours of the morning as it made it’s 1983 pilgrimage from it’s original location (where it was in danger of succombing to the wrecking ball), to it’s now permanent resting place in the parking lot across from the Hollywood Bowl on Highland Avenue. When my Mom worked on the city surveys of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, I’d accompany her as she drove every block, and call out each home’s architectural style from the back seat, like it was a fun game. “Colonial Revival! Tudor! Craftsman!”

It was clear to me as a young girl, people in the preservation community admired my mother tremendously. She was extremely beloved and a singular wealth of knowledge on topic of historic preservation. Everyone wanted her involvement and advice. She was leagues ahead of her time, crafting her own niche and starting up her own consulting business, in a relatively unpopular field by Los Angeles standards. She was, and remains to this day, a human encyclopedia of architectural information, with a mind-boggling personal library and memorabilia archive to boot, that is virtually impossible to rival.

And while I recollect that it was sometimes fun to check out an infinite array of exclusive Hollywood landmarks and feel privy to rather sophicated circles at such a young age, I also remember wanting to just stay home and play with my toys, and thinking that other kid’s parents didn’t do this weird kind of stuff on the weekends. (“Awww, Mom. Can we go now?”)

As proud as I am of my mother, it became important to me to chart a different course and pursue my own interests as a grew older. Being the Hollywood chick that I am, it seemed a natural path to explore acting and filmmaking. I had an talent agent in my teens, and attended UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and TV, though I never quite felt 100% comfortable in front of the camera. As I realized I was more suited to creating behind the lens, I attended Art Center College of Design and majored in Film Directing.

Despite my best laid plans though, my mother’s passion for preservation and architecture did in fact rub off on me, and when presented with the opportunity to photograph a series of landmark buildings for the National Register of Historic Places and CA State Office of Historic Preservation after I graduated from film school, I was happy to oblige. I justified this because A) I needed the work and B) “it was more about photography than architecture”. Surprisingly, I found myself quite enjoying the work of photo documenting historic preservation and rehabilitation projects, and over the course of the next decade, I ended up photographing over 60 historic building projects in Los Angeles and California. (Read more “backstory” here)

So, I have to chuckle a little at myself now, when I attend these type of events – of my own volition and with great enthusiasm. Now that I live here in New York City, it’s actually become a way for me to stay connected to my mother and continue sharing our mutual passions. It’s impossible for me not to think of her during the GVHSP tour and I always end up calling her afterwards and sharing every little detail. I have great hope she’ll make it out one spring and join me for the tour. That will be one full circle moment, to be sure.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll think about taking your son or daughter on the tour with you! They might protest, want to touch stuff, and intermittenly act bored, but you might just plant a seed about the value of preserving the places of the past, for the future kids of Greenwich Village, and that IS actually pretty cool…

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you!

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Feast of Good at The Brooklyn Kitchen

When: March 14, 2011, 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Where: The Brooklyn Kitchen

Price: $75.00 USD

You are cordially invited to join Eye For Style for a spectacular evening at Brooklyn Kitchen. Good Commons is bringing their signature culinary experience to New York City for one night only, and you will have the unprecedented opportunity to indulge in creations from four chefs, who will each take the reigns for a delicious, seasonal dish, along with wine pairings from a seasoned sommelier. The open kitchen gives you an insider’s peek as the chefs prepare each course, and the communal table promises to provide a stellar setting for uncommonly good food, friendship, and community. Wondering what’s on the menu? It’s a surprise! Fear not though – the menu has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate a variety of palates and gluten-free guests.

Your host for the evening is GOOD COMMONS, a boutique retreat located in Plymouth, Vermont. Originally built in the 1840s, it first operated as a general store. Lovingly restored and fully renovated in 2007 by radiant owner/hostess, Tesha Buss, Good Commons has quickly become one of the premier travel destinations in the Northeast. They host a series of weekend getaways throughout the year that draw from the bounty of the region, ranging from culinary immersions, food & wine weekends, yoga retreats, health & wellness events and outdoor adventures.

THE BROOKLYN KITCHEN is the culinary brainchild of Taylor Erkkinen and Harry Rosenblum, who saw the need for kitchenware stores in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. What they’ve created is a neighborhood hotspot that includes an eclectic collection of kitchen supplies and local products. Within the store is the Meat Hook, an artisan butcher counter and charcuterie; as well as Brooklyn Kitchen Labs, two dedicated spaces for cooking workshops, classes and special culinary events.

Your Chefs for the evening include:

MATTHEW WEXLER is a partner in the Good Retreat Company as well as a private chef and food, travel & lifestyle writer. When not cooking at Good Commons, Matthew is a regular contributor to EDGE Media Network, offManhattan, and Endless Simmer. He is currently writing the Good Commons food memoir, Uncommonly Good: Stories of life, food and the Birth of Good Commons, as well as his own blog, http://www.roodeloo.com/.

BRENDAN MCDERMOTT is a New York City native who currently dwells in Brooklyn. An acclaimed chef and instructor, Brendan has honed his skills at some of NYC’s most notable restaurants, including Mesa Grill, Olives, and Patria. Trained at Peter Krump (now The Institute of Culinary Education), he shares his knowledge and passion for food throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. His knife skills class at Brooklyn Kitchen was named by New York Magazine as “Best Cooking Class” and he is also featured in the up-and-coming cooking show, Working Class Foodies.

APRIL STAMM is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute. As a freelance food writer, April has written for a wide range of publications including Pastry Scoop, an online pastry magazine, and The Nibble, a gourmet product review and foodie information site. April has made numerous appearances as a guest chef at Good Commons and also teaches home cooking classes.

MARTIN HOWARD has had a lifelong passion for great food. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America where he studied all areas of cuisine, he went on to lead some of the top pastry kitchens in New York, including the legendary Rainbow Room atop 30 Rock. He has competed many times on the “Food Network Challenge”, winning top honors for his sweet creations. Martin’s first children’s story/cookbook “Tina Cocolina, Queen of the Cupcakes” was recently published by Random House.

Sommelier, KRISTEN SIEBECKER, has been a great fan of viticulture and vinification since her first illicit sip of Boone’s Farm wine beverage in her formative years. More recently, she completed the Advanced Certification program from the WSET with distinction, and is certified in Advanced Blind Tasting by the American Sommelier Association. You’ll find Kristen at the NYC East Side Best Cellars wine shop, advising customers and assisting in the store’s ‘Sommelier for an Evening’ program. Kristen’s current favorite varietal is Gruner Veltliner.

Have we whet your appetite? Seating is limited, so act fast! PURCHASE TICKETS here.

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Eye For Style Recommends: The Shiny Squirrel

Jessica Goldfond, the brains and beauty behind The Shiny Squirrel, has an incredible eye for style, to be sure. Single-handedly creating The Shiny Squirrel back in 2006, it began as (and remains) a popular fashion art blog. Within the last two years, she’s expanded into a new media and PR company based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with emerging artists and designers who primarily create one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces. The Shiny Squirrel is a clever mash-up of online marketplace, art gallery, and real world pop-up sales showcase, meets artists representation and brand consulting. Jessica’s on-going mission is to give the growing market of young creative talent a voice and multitude of forums to display and sell their work.

Lucky for all you buyers and fashionistas, she’s hosting yet another fabulous pop-up showroom and sample sale this week, from February 21 – 23, at the undeniably hip Ace Hotel New York. This event is guaranteed to be even bigger and crazier than the last, with 12 of the most cutting-edge designers from the jewelry, accessories, and clothing world participating. These select brands represent a mix of both local and national designers, coming from as far as California to showcase their line!

If you’re seeking some truly unique, affordable, new merchandise for your boutique, or that accessory that no one else will be wearing come spring, this is one destination shopping opportunity you should not miss!

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Introducing: Eye For Style Maps

After tons of research, and many foodie photo missions over the last 2 years, I am happy to present Eye For Style’s “Best of NYC” – my absolute favorite, highly recommended, culinary and cultural hotspots. Each awesome destination has been personally hand picked and mapped out, with original photography and reviews, by yours truly. Featuring topics such as NYC’s Best: coffee, pizza, brunch, burgers, cheap eats, vintage clothing, and more!

For the complete list of Eye For Style Maps, click here.

Disclaimer: I’m a die-hard Greenwich Villager and Loisiada, and make no bones about the fact that, in my opinion, The Village and Lower East Side are the best neighborhoods in New York City. My maps reflect this biased love – and I’m totally cool with it. These are my stomping grounds, my passion, my point of view.

That said, I love good food, wherever it may live, and I can occasionally be lured above 14th Street, or to the nether lands of the outer boroughs, for truly excellent eats. I would love to hear your comments and opinions about what YOU consider to be the “Best of NYC”. Please share your picks here and I’ll be sure to add them to my list. As much as I love giving suggestions, I love receiving suggestions even more, so dish the scoop. I’m all ears!

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, you’ve probably been racking your brain or scouring the web for that perfect romantic dinner spot, some better than average chocolates, and/or an intimate booth to grab a cocktail? If you’re still drawing a blank, make it easy on yourself and check out my maps of the Best Dinner Date Spots, Best Sweets and Chocolate, and Best Watering Holes for up-to-the minute tips on the ideal locale to wine, dine, and treat your sweetheart. Every one of these places are a guaranteed “no fail zone”. Pick any recommendation from the list with confidence, so you can simply focus on charming the pants off your date. You can thank me later…

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Eye For Style Recommends: GVSHP’s 2010 House Tour Benefit

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
2010 House Tour Benefit
May 2, 2010, 1 to 5:30 pm

As an architecture and design lover, this is one of my favorite yearly events. It’s a rare treat to actually be able to go inside some of the fabulous homes I walk by all the time and get a glimpse of how a select few are living in high style and comfort. I find it to be a fun way check out incredible art collections, spectacularly quiet gardens, and some of the finest interior decorating in the city. Not to mention, get inspired about how I’ll someday decorate my own lovingly restored, multi-level rowhouse (when I finally “make it” in this town). One can always dream!

The tour makes for one of the loveliest Sunday spring outings available to New Yorkers, and GVSHP is a really worthy organization to support. I’ve been a docent on the tour two years running now and I can’t think of a group I’d rather volunteer my time for. I always meet terrific people, who are passionate about the architecture and history of this beloved neighborhood, and always willing to share stories of past residents’ adventures in the Village. Be sure to support this critical organization’s efforts, so they can keep fighting the good fight and protect the Village’s most important historic resources for future generations.

Here’s what they say about this year’s tour:

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation works to protect the cultural and architectural heritage of Greenwich Village, NoHo, and the East Village. Now in its thirtieth year, GVSHP has secured unprecedented achievements for our communities through advocacy, education, and documentation. Offering a rare glimpse into six of Greenwich Village’s finest and most exclusive townhouses, the Twelfth Annual Village House Tour Benefit is held to raise funds in support of GVSHP’s work to educate about and advocate for the distinctive character and irreplaceable architecture of our neighborhoods. This year’s tour features the spectacular residences of:

Clyde & Summer Anderson, Charles Street
You’ll find a surprising and ingenious solution in a small bathroom in this Italianate home with a restored stoop and a glass façade leading into a backyard terrace and garden.

Clora Kelly & Helge Skibeli, West 11th Street
A townhouse formerly owned by St. Vincent’s hospital with a fun, funky, and colorful interior.

Paul & Christine Smith, Commerce Street
This tiny home in the Commerce Street cul-de-sac has returned to its original stoop and brick façade after many years under stucco.

Jane and Richard Stewart, Charles Street
A townhouse designed in the French Second Empire style on what was once known as Van Nest Place.

Lawrence and Alice Weiner, West 4th Street
A former stable and bakery building, this home features a redesigned modern façade and the artist-owner’s pieces on the interior.

Jeffrey Weingarten & Belinda Broido, West 11th Street
Cuban art is a feature of this classic Greek Revival townhouse with many historic details updated for modern life.

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